2018 World Series Game Three: Exhaustion to the Max

EasyAce

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(An essay yours truly is to have published later this weekend . . .)

When Red Sox manager Alex Cora played for the Dodgers, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was his teammate, his most surreal moment lasted only eighteen pitches and ended with him hitting a two-run homer, in May 2004. Now they can both claim their most surreal moment as managers to have lasted eighteen innings and ended with a solo home run. And that’s the least extraterrestrial observation Game Three of this World Series inspires.

If you’ve loved the game as long and as deeply as I have, you, too, have seen and heard about games that had it all and then some. But you’ve never seen anything like Game Three. I promise you that. If there’s a game in baseball history that gets anywhere near this for suspense, horror, comedy, and drama, it probably hasn’t been played yet.

Harvey Haddix’s bid for a perfect game going to the thirteenth inning in 1959? Hah!

Game Seven of the 1960 World Series that ended in a 10-9 score on Bill Mazeroski’s game-ending home run? Nah.

Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn going mano-a-mano for sixteen innings in 1963 until Willie Mays ended it with a shot over the fence? Don’t even think about it.

The 24-inning nightcap marathon the Mets and the Giants played in Shea Stadium in 1964, which the Giants finally won to sweep a doubleheader, with the Mets’ still-teenage first baseman Ed Kranepool—who’d been recalled from Triple-A Buffalo just in time to start the first game—playing every one of the day’s 33 innings? Yawn.

Game Six of the 1975 Series, with Bernie Carbo’s pinch-hit three-run homer tying it and setting it up for the extras that ended with Carlton Fisk’s body English game winning bomb? Puppy chow.

Game Six of the 1986 World Series, in which Mookie Wilson’s skippety-hop roller toward the grass behind first skippety-hopped through Bill Buckner’s ankles to win for the Mets a few agonising minutes after the Red Sox had been a strike away from winning the Series? Nice try, but no cigar.

Game Seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series and Aaron Boone’s eleventh-hour and inning pennant-winning homer? Games Four and Seven of the ALCS a year later? Game Six of the 2011 Series, featuring David Freese’s game-tying triple, the Cardinals down to two final strikes, then Freese’s game-winning bomb? Getting closer.

Game Five of the 2014 NLCS, and Travis Ishikawa channeling his inner Bobby Thomson? Closer, but . . .

When Dodgers first baseman made second baseman Max Muncy caught hold of stout Red Sox righthander Nathan Eovaldi’s fastball—and Eovaldi was still throwing near-100 mph vapours since entering for the twelfth inning and pitching the equivalent of a quality start—and sent it over the left field fence on the seventh pitch of a full count, the former Oakland spare part ended a game that really could brag about being one for the books.

“This was a gut-wrenching game for both sides,” Muncy said after it finally ended with the 3-2 Dodgers win. “This is one of those games that whoever came out on top is going to have a lot of momentum going into tomorrow.” He meant later today, we think.

It may take that long to tell the whole story. It won’t do just to summarise that rookie Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler pitched up to his best notices and turned in a seven-shutout-inning, two-hit, seven-strikeout performance and left with a 1-0 lead that didn’t start getting into the serious fun until Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, asked for a six-out save, surrendered a game-tying bomb to Jackie Bradley, Jr. in the first inning of that effort.

It won’t do just to outline that Game Three took more playing time than the entire 1939 World Series (the Yankees swept the Reds) and that every player on both teams except four got into the game. Maybe it’ll help a little to say that the game got long enough and involved enough on both rosters that wags began suggesting it wouldn’t be long before 82-year-old Sandy Koufax (who attended the game with his wife) and 77-year-old Luis Tiant (a great 1970s Red Sox pitcher) would be warming up in the bullpens.

It won’t do just to say the game took 34 strikeouts, 21 men left on base, twelve infield pop flies, twelve walks, five players out of position including Cora’s half-amusing game of musical outfielders, three baserunning outs, and two leads blown when, out of nowhere, Curly Stooge showed up in the field for the Dodgers and Flounder showed up in the field for the Red Sox—both in (don’t say it!) the thirteenth inning.

It won’t do just to say that the Red Sox were gifted a 2-1 lead in the top of the thirteenth when Dodgers reliever Scott Alexander—who’d walked Brock Holt to open the inning, threw a wild pitch that skittered between Red Sox late-game third base insertion Eduardo Nunez’s legs and past the plate, allowing Holt to help himself to second—then bounded off the mound going for Nunez’s lollypop grounder, barehanded the ball, and threw the ball wild enough to allow Holt to score the first World Series run to score on an error since Ray Knight of the Mets did it on the fateful Buckner mishap.

Or, in the bottom, when Muncy caught a huge break when his check swing third strike was called ball four despite his hands clearly going just past the zone even if his bat didn’t, and, two outs later, Yasiel Puig sent a wicked grounder toward second that Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler backhanded on the grass before throwing—a little desperately—off balance and past first base to send Muncy home with the re-tying run.

Until then, Manny Machado looked like he was going to wear the dog collar for his sixth inning lapse, when he lined what should have been a high double over Martinez’s head and off the left field wall. Thinking he’d hit one out, Johnny Hustle stood just long enough watching before finally deigning to run. It allowed Martinez to play the ricochet and keep him to a single. The look on Machado’s face told the story. He blew it and he knew it. Even Bellinger’s inning-ending pop out couldn’t acquit him there.

It also won’t do to say that what looked like an epic battle of the mound on paper was pockmarked by six opportunities for the Red Sox to score on two outs, as they’ve been well enough recorded and respected for doing this postseason, the most heartbreaking miss maybe being the bases loaded in that same thirteenth but Xander Bogaerts whacking such a weak one on the ground near the plate that Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes could just step on the plate for the inning-ending force.

And it won’t do to say both Cora and Roberts had their chances to win earlier but didn’t quite let their minds match their chances. Maybe none was more glaring than Roberts electing not to send Freese—that 2011 Series eleventh-hour hero—to pinch hit for Jansen in the bottom of the ninth.

With two on that should have been three but for Cody Bellinger wasting his leadoff hit by getting nailed in a rundown on a steal attempt, Roberts had a golden opportunity to win right there with Freese, who’d been hitting well enough since becoming a Dodger in August. But after Cora switched his outfield of J.D. Martinez, Bradley, and Mookie Betts around, the better to have a healthier left field presence than Martinez and his still-ailing ankle, a move he made several times as the game got later and later, Roberts sent out Brian Dozier instead. And Dozier popped out around the short side of the infield to send the game to extra innings in the first place.

But it hurts like hell to say Eovaldi almost equaled Buehler’s performance but for the one unearned run against him in the thirteenth, until he threw Muncy three balls and a called strike, then saw Muncy foul off a pair before throwing a fastball to the outer edge of the zone that Muncy managed to send the other way over the left center field fence.

“I told him how proud I was of him,” Cora said of Eovaldi, who’s come back from two Tommy John surgeries to become an effective Red Sox starter turned postseason bullpen weapon. “The effort was amazing . . . What Nate did tonight, that was amazing . . . We kept talking to him. ‘I’m good, I’m good, I’m good’.”

“They were checking with me [every inning], asking me how I was feeling, and I told them I was good,” Eovaldi himself said. “I want this win, I want to come out here and finish it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to come out on top. To go that far, you want to come out on top, for us to come up short right there it’s frustrating to me.”

Kinsler felt bad enough about his tenth-inning basepath mishaps. He barely got back to first on a pickoff attempt; he overslid third on Holt’s hit-and-run single; then, he tagged on Nunez’s fly to center but couldn’t outrun a daring throw home from Bellinger that atoned for Bellinger’s own too-fresh basepath death. But Kinsler felt worse about his wild throw to first.

He felt worse about the wild throw past first that re-tied the game in the thirteenth. Tacitly admitting he was trying to save the game right there with his offbalance throw to first, though he might have had a moment to set before throwing and still had a chance to get the swift Puig, Kinsler said, “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win. I feel terrible. I feel terrible for Nate. I feel like I let the team down right there.”

The marathon almost eradicated Buehler’s bold effort despite the Red Sox’s attempts to wear him out from the outset, when it took him 26 pitches to get three up, three down in the first. On a night the Dodgers needed the rookie to go deep, Buehler managed somehow to out-last the Red Sox’s grinders to do just that.

“Some guys run from it,” Roberts said. “Some guys can’t answer the bell. But this guy, he’s got an overt confidence, a quiet confidence, a little combo. But he’s got tremendous stuff. And he lives for moments like this.”

You’ll probably get Buehler to admit even he wasn’t quite living for games such as the way Game Three ended up. Even if Muncy is right about a momentum shift, the Red Sox still lead the set 2-1, their tenacity probably can’t be eroded by the Friday-to-Saturday marathon, and it’s entirely possible that both the Dodgers—who have their own tenacity to be proud of—and the Red Sox may play Game Four in their sleep.

They won’t be able to top Game Three no matter who wins the Series and no matter how hard they try. About the only thing missing was a grand musical performance, though Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle got awful close awful often. He may have a harder time topping himself than either team on the field. And he’d be even more foolish to try than either team on the field.

One for the books? It’ll take all 32 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. And maybe your Funk & Wagnall’s, too.
 

Crotch

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Both teams are super lame. Watched 0 innings of the WS so far.

Congrats on the publish
 

EasyAce

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Both teams are super lame. Watched 0 innings of the WS so far.
Thanks large for the congrats, but someone who hasn't watched any of the Series is in no position to comment about either team.
 

Crotch

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Thanks large for the congrats, but someone who hasn't watched any of the Series is in no position to comment about either team.

Haha really. I don't like either team so I'm not watching. I watched both CS's because my team was in there on the NL side (went to 3 of the 4 games) and was cheering for Houston on the AL side. I watch mostly NL games being a brewer fan but East coast teams get shoved down everyone's throats everywhere so I've seen them plenty. So I feel I'm perfectly qualified to comment on either team. I just don't have an interest in watching 2 teams I dislike. I can catch it all on sportscenter in 2 minutes rather than investing 4 hours.
 

dennis g

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Personally, (no flames please, it's just my opinion) baseball is a little too slow. I'll admit that I'm not into the "sign calling", "strategy", etc. but 9 innings is about 8 too many for me, let alone the marathon performance put on by both teams. And just to echo the post above, I can see highlights, etc. in a couple of clicks on the internet or sportscenter, or my local paper the next day for all I care.
As I said, it's IMHO only, and YMMV as I'm sure it will LOL.
 

EasyAce

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Very nice. Pats and Sox will give me a heart attack.
Once upon a time, in their snake-bitten generations before 2004, the television and cultural critic Cleveland Amory said, On my tombstone it will read: CAUSE OF DEATH: BOSTON RED SOX.
 

DADGAD

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Haven’t watched the WS since the Blue Jays won back to back ones in ‘92 and ‘93. Joe Carter’s Series winning homer in ‘93 off
Mitch Williams prob tops this WS. The Red Sox were a pain to the Jays.
 

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